Howard Gordon: What the brains behind '24' decided to do next

After turning the war on terror into a global television hit, he is now hoping to do the same with the conflict in Afghanistan

For the first time in years, Howard Gordon has some time on his hands. Last month, the 49-year-old writer sat down with his family in Los Angeles to watch the very last episode of 24, the television drama he helped mould into one of America's most successful exports.

Gordon was the driving force behind 24, both as writer and executive producer, for eight years. With its cast of nihilist terrorist networks hell bent on destruction, the show became a global phenomenon.

Kiefer Sutherland's rugged, all-American hero Jack Bauer helped the show surpass both Mission Impossible and The Avengers as the longest spy-themed TV show, picking up 18 Emmys along the way and beaming into the homes of millions of viewers around the world.

Now Gordon hopes to weave the same sort of magic with a subtler take on America's so-called "war on terror" with a new TV series based on a popular Israeli drama about prisoners of war.

Gordon has bought the rights to Hahatufim [The Kidnapped], which began broadcasting in Israel earlier this year and tells the story of three soldiers battling to adjust to family life after years in captivity in Lebanon.

"Our version is about a US soldier who is presumed missing in the [2003] Iraq invasion," the 49-year-old writer told The Independent. "Ten years later he is found in the rubble of a drone strike in Afghanistan. It's a bit of a Rip Van Winkle story but there's a female CIA agent who was herself a field agent in Pakistan and Iraq. She comes to believe that this POW has actually been brainwashed and is now the tip of the spear of another big attack on US soil."

Gordon is currently working on the script with Alex Gansa, an old friend who studied with him at Princeton and began his writing career on The X-Files. The show has a working title of "Homeland" and has yet to have a full pilot commissioned. Fox (which made 24) has, however, provided Gordon with the finance to buy up the rights to Hahatufim.

It was under Gordon's leadership that 24 became the ultimate adrenaline shot for the post 9/11 generation and an alternate reality for a country terrified by the spectre of international terrorism. The series ran to eight seasons, with the final episode airing in the UK earlier this month. There are rumours of a film in the offing, but otherwise Jack Bauer will not be appearing on our screens again.

Bauer burst on to US screens two months after the al-Qa'ida's attacks and for eight years served as America's ultimate fantasy response to global terrorism – an impeccably loyal hero who would stop at nothing to defend his country, even if "nothing" means copious amounts of torture.

Gordon's new project will tackle similar themes as 24 but will, he hopes, be a more nuanced product. He is keen to keep the war-on-terror theme, but combine it with a less frantic pace into something that might sit comfortably between 24 and more novelistic dramas such as HBO's The Wire.

"24 was full of testosterone," he said. "We often called it a soap opera on crack. Homeland will be different. It is very dense and very slow moving. We have qualified it as being very British when we pitched it."

But will there still be explosions, 24-esque bomb plots and double- dealing agents? "The Israeli version is really a soft family drama about these guys coming home. Ours is more a thriller. But it is a little bit slower going than 24. It doesn't have the same tensions and the suspension. It's very much a post-24 treatment of some of the complex issues surrounding the war on terror."

It was exactly those issues which made 24 such a runaway success but also contributed to its eventual shelving. Critics of the show – particularly on the American left – accused it of being an apology for the sort of gung-ho foreign policy that was adopted by the Bush administration.

Gordon – a self-described "left-leaning centrist" – has voiced his frustration at the politicisation of his show, which was, after all, meant to be an entertaining rip-roarer for an insecure nation struggling to understand terrorism. But the criticism hasn't put him off tackling the same subject matter.

"I'm still fascinated by the ongoing debates about at what point do we draw the line between our security and some of the values that we cherish as democracies," he explains. "These are issues that will be with us for a really long time and I think it'll create fodder for dramatic material."

And, in the meantime, there is also his book, The Obelisk, which seems to be almost as prophetic in its timing as 24 was. "It's an airport thriller set on a deep-sea oil rig," he said. Does the rig blow up? "It might," he adds, breaking into a wide smile.

The final season of '24' is out on DVD this autumn

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style